Texas Leads Nation In Uninsured Children

Texas ranks dead last in the nation when it comes to children with health insurance according to a health survey by the Kaiser Foundation. The same survey said Texas leads the nation in children being cut from state programs like the Children's Health Insurance Program or CHIP.
  Local health officials cite a new set of strict qualifications as the reason more and more East Texas kids are going uninsured.
  "Our healthcare in Texas especially for children is pretty bad," said Nick Sciarrini, Director of the Northeast Texas Public Health District. "We're already ranked 50 out of 50. This is probably going to put us at 51 out of 50."  Nick says the states bad ranking is due in part to stricter enrollment guidelines for state healthcare programs like CHIP.
  "The last legislative session and some of the policies that followed have resulted in writing a significant number of children out of the system," he said.
  In May of 2002, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission,  529,211 children were enrolled in CHIP. The latest numbers show an enrollment of 361,464, a more than 30 percent drop in 2 years.
  The St. Paul's Children's Medical Clinic in Tyler, provides healthcare to kids of low income families. Dr. Jack Thompson said he's seen a large drop in patients covered by CHIP and that 50 percent of the kids treated at the clinic are uninsured.
  "Most of them are not funded," said Dr. Thompson. "It's a real problem and there's got to be some money put in to it from some where."
  Reina Mancera brought her 15-year-old daughter Rosalinda to the center for a check up. She said she's grateful for St. Pauls and the medical care it provides her daughter.
  "I'm very happy to come here to this clinic," said Reina. "They help you a lot with my daughters. They take care of lots of kids."
  Dr. Thompson says St. Pauls will continue to open its doors to the uninsured and with the states latest ranking, that's something they can expect to continue for a long, long time.
  Starting August 15th, if a family has not paid at least one monthly CHIP premium they will loose the service on September 1.
  On August 24th, families can be disqualified from CHIP  if they have assets such as a car or bank account, worth more than $5,000.

Story  by Maya Golden, mgolden@kltv.com